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Iowa, Creighton are preseason scrimmage buddies, and second-round NCAA combatants
NCAA women’s basketball: Hawkeyes face Bluejays at noon Sunday with a Sweet 16 berth on the line
IOWA CITY — It has become an annual Halloween occurrence.
Iowa vs. Creighton in a preseason women’s basketball scrimmage. It’s not a simple, laid-back affair.
“Yeah, it's competitive,” Iowa’s Caitlin Clark said. “We treat it like it's a real game. We go through a scout. We warm up like it's a real game. It's your first kind of real game experience.”
You won’t find it anywhere officially, but a Creighton official had access to the final tally when they met at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Oct. 31.
Hawkeyes 83, Bluejays 78.
“I know (Iowa Coach) Lisa (Bluder) is competitive. I think we might have used our bench a little more than they did,” Creighton Coach Jim Flanery said. “I know this one was competitive down the stretch.”
More than four months have passed since that get-together. The stakes of their reunion are high.
Eighth-ranked Iowa (24-7) hosts Creighton (21-9) in an NCAA tournament second-round encounter at noon Sunday. The game will be played before a sellout Carver crowd of 14,382, and will be televised nationally on ABC.
“I figured we might get that time slot,” Flanery said. “(Clark) is must-see TV. We have a chance to make a statement of our own.”
The game features two of the nation’s most efficient, high-octane squads. Led by Clark — the national leader in both scoring (27.4 points per game) and assists (8.1 per contest) — Iowa scores at an 84.9-point clip.
The Hawkeyes are No. 1 nationally in field-goal percentage (.547) and free-throw percentage (.845).
Meanwhile, Creighton leads the nation is assists per game (20.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.16 to 1).
“They’re very offensively explosive. They do some of the things we like to do,” Bluder said. “And it could be a real track meet tomorrow.”
The Hawkeyes advanced with a 98-58 first-round rout of Illinois State, their largest margin of victory ever in an NCAA game.
Creighton topped Colorado, 84-74.
“I was actually hoping to play Colorado. I thought we matched up with Colorado a little bit better,” Bluder said. “Because with Creighton playing a five-guard offense, it's harder for us to defend them.
“The second part of that was about 2018.”
Creighton upset the Hawkeyes in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament, 76-70, in Los Angeles.
Clark is one of the top candidates in the national-player-of-the-year race. But it is Czinano that has the Bluejays most concerned.
“Caitlin is going to get hers,” Flanery said. “Monika is the key. She’s so efficient. She’s a product of a team that shoots and passes so well.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with our posts, working on her tendencies.”
Czinano stands 6-foot-3. None of the Bluejays are taller than 6-1.
“I’m kind of undersized for a (post),” Creighton sophomore Emma Ronsiek said. “We’ve got to pay attention to detail (against Czinano).”
Sunday’s winner advances to the Sweet 16 at Greensboro, N.C., and will face either No. 10 Iowa State or Georgia in a regional semifinal next Friday.
A win would put the Hawkeyes in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive tournament. They made the Elite Eight in 2019, then — after the 2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 — got back to the Sweet 16 last year in the San Antonio bubble.
“We're super thankful for the opportunity and we don't take it for granted,” Clark said.